During your backpacking in Southeast Asia, you definitely don’t want to miss Myanmar. There is more than a handful of the must-see in Myanmar. The landscape is not the only deal here, Burmese are the greatest asset of Myanmar.
Being open to foreign travellers for the past twenty-four years, Myanmar only hit its peak in the tourism industry in 2010. However, Myanmar is still getting used to seeing people from outside their country.
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Since the government only granted the most of the world of 28 days single entry visa, you might as well want to make sure that you won’t miss a thing during your visit. With a not very developed transportation system here, travel time takes more than what you thought, compared to Vietnam and Thailand.
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I was in Myanmar for three amazing weeks, sounds like plenty of time, right? Unfortunately, I still managed to miss some places I want to see. I really hope that this must-see in Myanmar list can help in any way. If the Golden Rock is on your list, check out this Golden Rock personal experience from my fellow travel blogger.
Please note that Myanmar has a very slow internet connection, in case you rely on the internet most of the time, you might want to plan this around in advance.
NOTE: All prices are in US Dollars
QUICK TIPS TO REMEMBER
Expected expenses per day $35-40 for a backpacker, staying in hotels, hitchhiking, eating street food, and taking fewer tours as possible. Check out these important things you need to know when travelling in Myanmar.
You can spend about $2-3 per meal. You can, of course, spend more better options in restaurants.
Other than flying which is pricey, overnight buses are the most popular ($15 for a 9-hour bus), trains are a bit tricky.
Nowadays, you can book bus and train tickets online. If you are feeling sceptical, you can arrive early, and plan to get a ticket a day before your trip.
So, get up early, head to the train station and get your ticket. Trains are a lot slower than buses, they are also uncomfortable and cramped. However, it is highly recommended if you want to experience it and blend in with the locals.
Buses are very comfortable but make sure that you get your ticket and reserve your seat a day or two in advance. Finding the place to buy the ticket is pretty inconvenient and uneasy, ask your receptionist for a recommendation or other travellers that you meet.
Most attraction places have “tourist fee” like in Bagan, Inle Lake, and Mandalay. It ranges between $10-$20. Some travellers would sell their ticket to another traveller when they are about to leave the city or country since most tickets are valid for several days.
Booking a tour is not a bad thing to do in Myanmar, only locals can help you discover the secret gems of this country. Also, there are a few places like the trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake where the government only allow you to do with a local tour guide.
Burmese people are very nice and kind as what I observed. However, there are also a few who will see you as a target. When my friend and I Morgan went to the train station to book a bus from Yangon to Mandalay, a guy stopped us at the gate and said that the tickets are sold out.
We don’t know why but we believed him and followed him when he said he can get us a bus ticket instead. It was not our first time travelling but since we cannot rely on anything else (even Lonely Planet guides are not accurate), we trusted his words.
Since there are very limited resources about Myanmar during our visit and internet access is not very well, we believed him and purchased the ticket. When we got back to our hotel, we agreed that we feel like we were scammed.
We checked Morgan’s Lonely Planet guide which confirmed that we definitely paid twice more for the bus tickets. We came back to the office and made up a story that we want to cancel it.
The argument became intense and the guy was saying we cannot get a refund. But the moment two other tourist walked in, which was taken by the same guy who brought us to the office, the guy behind the desk immediately offered to give back our money and we can keep our ticket.
We warned the two other tourists to watch out for those guys who might try to scam them.
Please note that travel agencies aren’t huge yet in Myanmar even in Yangon.
8 PLACES YOU MUST SEE IN MYANMAR
Make sure you won’t miss these places during your visit to Myanmar. They are quite easy to get to, beautiful to explore, and must-see.
The busiest city in Myanmar. This is not the capital, but it was used to. Most flights land in Yangon which made this city the biggest business area in the country. Here, you will see businesses on every corner, must not miss temples, chance to interact with the locals who can speak enough English and the good place to plan out your trip. You may also want to check out this British War Cemetery near Yangon called Taukkyan.
You can get a sim card here for about $10, the shop staffs should help you set it up. Although the internet is unreliable, you can still use this for your maps which is very important.
From here, the best next destination you could head to Bagan or Mandalay. Some travellers also head down south or to the west. I personally headed to Mandalay on an overnight bus. When you are leaving Myanmar overland through Myawaddy/Maesot, you can get on a bus from here as well.
I highly recommend you to go to Mandalay after Yangon, instead of Bagan. First, because most travellers head to Bagan right away. Second, Mandalay is huge and it is the city where more than half of the entire monk in the country lives – which makes it a very interesting place to go especially for cultural purposes.
We took an overnight bus from Yangon to Mandalay which was a pretty good trip. Here you can see, Mandalay Palace, the World’s biggest book, and Mandalay Hill. From here, you can explore the outskirt of the city; Sagaing and Amapura. You can also visit Pyin Oo Lwin and Hsipaw.
The only inconvenient in this part is, you always have to backtrack to Mandalay. There is no way to go to Bagan from Pyin Oo Lwin, however, I’ve heard from other travellers that you can get to Bagan from Hsipaw. Here are more things you can do in Mandalay.
PYIN OO LWIN
Pyin Oo Lwin is a small town two to three hours from Mandalay, Morgan and I took a pick-up for $1. We are cramped in a small pick-up with the locals, which was really fun because the tone guy was trying so hard to communicate with Morgan through our Burmese dictionary.
When we get to Pyin Oo Lwin, my first impression was, it’s a sleepy town, locals seem like walking slowly and not in a hurry at all. The buildings are pretty, you can clearly see the British architectures everywhere. A half an hour drive from the town centre, you can visit a beautiful waterfall. This waterfall is surrounded by nature, a perfect place to relax and maybe fall asleep.
From here, you can take a train to Hsipaw. I didn’t get the chance to try it, however, a friend of mine said that the view from the train was amazing. You will cross some mountain throughout the way.
Some people call this little Bagan, although it’s almost not at all comparable in Bagan, you can still manage to see the stunning temples here and there. This town is popular for trekking. You can easily get a tour guide who can assist you to discover some hidden gems.
If you get to Shan Village, ask the locals how to get to the natural hot spring. The water is clear and warm, a perfect way to hang out with the locals and get quiet time for a while. If you have more time, check out these hidden gems and sacred places in Hpa An.
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It is no question why Bagan is a must see in Myanmar, the remarkable temples that are built in the 9th century are spread across this city. There are over 2,000 temples that come in different sizes and designs. I highly recommend you to rent an e-bike from your hostel, this is the easiest way to get around and see the whole area because it is massive.
Remember these things before heading to see the temples:
- Wear proper clothing., Cover your shoulders and legs to give respect.
- Footwear is not allowed when you enter a temple.
- Remember to pay the Archaeological Zone fee (20/26 USD). This is valid for five days.
The area is beautiful for the sunrise and sunset view. Riding a hot air balloon is also an option although it is a little bit expensive. If you are with your kids, check this temple hopping in Bagan with kids guide. While here, is an extensive guide about Bagan.
If you love trekking, this destination is famous for the three-day trekking to Inle Lake. In Kalaw, you can easily hire your local tour guide and let him/her handle your luggage, accommodations, food, and tour around Inle Lake. You can reach this town from Bagan or Mandalay by an overnight bus.
I did the three-day trek which I highly recommend. I get the chance to get in contact with a local and know more about Myanmar and its people. I managed to see the areas I surely don’t get the chance to explore without our tour guide.
Naypyitaw or Naypyidaw is the capital of Myanmar. I didn’t get the chance to visit the capital, first, because that time was the hottest month of the year, the locals told us that it is one of the hottest city during summer.
Another reason is that the locals told us that there isn’t a lot of things to see in Naypyitaw. We also didn’t have enough time, so we decided to skip it. But if you have spare time and came on the right season, try to visit the capital, after all, it’s still the capital.
I hope these recommendations of must see in Myanmar will help you to plan out your trip and if you want to learn more about the food culture in Myanmar, check out these food tours and cooking classes. In case you have any other questions, feel free to message me.